The safety and efficacy of two potent opiate analgesics, fentanyl and oxymorphone, used as adjuncts in general anesthesia, were studied in 39 patients undergoing elective gynecologic surgery of at least 2 hours duration. Based on a potency ratio of 10:1, patients received either fentanyl 6.5 micrograms/kg or oxymorphone 65 micrograms/kg prior to a thiopental 2 to 3 mg/kg succinylcholine induction and endotracheal intubation. Additional maintenance narcotic and isoflurane were administered as required by the "blinded" anesthesiologist in response to hemodynamic alterations 15% above a presurgical baseline. Overall analysis included hemodynamic response at preset intraoperative intervals, total anesthetic requirements, and stability of vital signs in the recovery room. Blood pressure and heart rate were reliably controlled with either agent; however, less narcotic (ml) and recovery room analgesics were required in the oxymorphone-treated group (p less than 0.05). Decreased naloxone requirements (p less than 0.05) and a more rapid emergence suggested that fentanyl was a safer agent when administered in relatively unrestricted fashion.